Different season, same problems for Reds
Reds pay price again for possession without penetration
REPORTING FROM WHITE HART LANE
(Danny Rose 72)
(James Milner 43-pen)
No prizes for guessing which was the most mouthwatering fixture, on paper at least, in this weekend's programme in the Premier League.
Talk to any manager in charge of the leading teams and they will tell you that this is likely to be the hardest season yet to break into the top four.
Which is why, despite the fact that the new campaign is less than a month old, there was an air of such anticipation on a warm and muggy afternoon in north London surrounding what is always a showpiece top-flight occasion between two of the EPL's most ambitious teams.
White Hart Lane was the stadium where Juergen Klopp launched his EPL career 45 Saturdays ago, but the pertinent question was which Liverpool team would turn up - the superbly sharp unit that tore Arsenal to shreds or the one that were embarrassed by promoted Burnley despite enjoying 81 per cent of possession?
In the end, it was a mixture of the two perhaps.
Liverpool will rue throwing away maximum points at a ground where visiting teams so often come unstuck.
Such inconsistency, of course, has been the hallmark of so many Liverpool teams in the past, not just under Klopp, but long before he was appointed in succession to Brendan Rodgers.
Klopp's most pressing concern has to be solving the left back position.
For much of Saturday's (Aug 27) game, Liverpool were the dominant team but, not for the first time, questions are bound to be raised about why Klopp, for all his astute signings, has not splashed the cash on a new left back with the much-maligned Alberto Moreno the only specialist in the position.
A move for Leicester City's Ben Chilwell, and reported interest in Cologne's Jonas Hector, failed to materialise this summer, leaving Klopp, who says he simply can't find the right man, to turn to James Milner as Moreno's makeshift deputy.
Milner has, of course, played there before, but the former Manchester City man is clearly not entirely suited to the role.
Although he expertly tucked away the penalty that gave a Liverpool a deserved half-time lead yesterday, it was his naive lack of positioning and anticipation that led to Tottenham's equaliser in the 72nd minute.
"I'm trying to learn as much as I can (in the position)," explained the retired England international after the match, as the Reds made it four points from three away games.
"I'm a Liverpool player and I'll do whatever I can for the team."
Whether the absence of a quality left back scuppers Liverpool's top-four hopes remains to be seen, but they can't keep dominating games only to make poor decisions at critical moments.
Klopp insists his side are still a work in progress but, although the German steered them to two cup finals last season (lost both), missing out on Champions League football was the biggest disappointment.
Tottenham, on the other hand, can look forward to mixing it with the big boys of Europe in the months ahead but they, too, have a point to prove domestically.
The jury is still very much out as to whether last season's third-placed finish represented a serious step forward or a missed opportunity to win the title for the first time in over half a century, given how Spurs capitulated in the final three games.
The signs for Spurs were ominous yesterday from the fifth minute when Michel Vorm, deputising for the injured Hugo Lloris, stretched out a leg to save superbly from Philippe Coutinho who should have buried the early chance from eight metres.
Vorm, in fact, was the arguably the best Tottenham player for the rest of the first half, as he continually came to his team's rescue when it looked as though the visitors might break through again as they sent runners from deep areas into the heart of the Spurs defence.
Tottenham just couldn't cope with the crisp counter-attacking of Liverpool's narrow front three, with Sadio Mane once again looking an outstanding buy even at £32 million ($57m).
But just when Tottenham fans were screaming for Mane, having already been booked, to be sent off for a foul on Danny Rose, the deadlock was broken.
Eric Lamela was adjudged to have tripped Roberto Firmino and Milner sent Vorm the wrong way.
Liverpool might even have had an earlier penalty when Jan Vertonghen was guilty of shirt-pulling - outlawed under the new rules - but got away with it.
Spurs, having been forced into a reshuffle when losing England fullback Kyle Walker to illness, had looked far too passive yet now had to chase the game.
Instead, Liverpool picked up where they left off and thought they had hammered home their advantage when Mane swept in Adam Lallana's cross, only for the offside flag to be raised, somewhat questionably, against the latter.
Would it prove to be the pivotal moment, given the notoriously brittle nature of Liverpool's defence?
The answer was emphatic. Simon Mignolet tipped over a Lamella free-kick, then pushed away Toby Alderweireld's bullet near-post header.
And with 18 minutes left, Spurs finally found a way through as Milner failed to track Eric Dier whose cross was headed out to a wide Rose, who sliced the ball into the net.
The result means Tottenham remain unbeaten, which will certainly please manager Mauricio Pochettino particularly as his side have not yet clicked into gear.
But the same cannot be said of Klopp, who would surely rue two points dropped and ponder how to solve the left back problem.
Milner still has to adapt a little bit and learn because he has 500 games, but not in this position. so we have to work on it, but we are convinced he can play the position. that’s why we didn’t make a transfer in that position.
— Liverpool manager Juergen Klopp
- Chelsea 3 Burnley 0
- Crystal palace 1 Bournemouth 1
- Everton 1 Stoke 0
- Leicester 2 Swansea 1
- Southampton 1 Sunderland 1
- Watford 1 Arsenal 3